Defenders Survive as Akron Falters
Connecticut took advantage of five walks and three errors, and a late rally came up just short for Akron as the Defenders held on for an 8-7 win in game three of the Eastern League Championship Series before 4,252 fans Friday. The Aeros still lead this best-of-five series two games to one, with game four set for 7:05 p.m. Saturday night at Canal Park.
Carlos Santana got Akron on the board in the bottom of the first with a run-scoring double play grounder, but starter Eric Berger walked the first two hitters in the top of the second as Eddy Martinez-Esteve came home on a sacrifice fly to tie it and Brad Boyer scored on an error as the Defenders took a 2-1 lead. A leadoff walk and an error also led to a Connecticut run in the top of the third, but the Aeros rallied to take the lead in the bottom of the inning.
Jose Constanza lined out sharply to start the frame, but Josh Rodriguez was hit by a pitch and Santana followed with a booming home run to left to tie the game at 3-3. Beau Mills then collected a base hit up the middle, went to second on a fielding error by Defenders third baseman Ramon Castro, and scored when Lonnie Chisenhall laced an RBI single to center to put Akron back in front by a run.
The lead didn’t last long however, as Connecticut opened the fourth with three straight singles to load the bases and knock Berger from the game. Brock Bond then greeted reliever Erik Stiller with a first-pitch RBI single to left to tie the game at 4-4, and Mike McBryde followed with an 18-hopper through the left side to plate two more. Eddy Martinez-Esteve capped the outburst with a sacrifice fly to right to make it 7-4.
The Aeros cut the margin to two runs in the fifth, as Santana worked a leadoff walk, moved to second on a groundout, and scored on a clutch RBI single from Carlos Rivero with two down. Reliever Steven Wright tight-roped out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the sixth, and Akron then pulled within a run in the bottom of the eighth. Jerad Head drilled a triple to right-center with one down, and two batters later Castro bobbled another grounder at third as Head scored and cut the lead to 7-6.
Connecticut got a huge insurance run in the top of the ninth however, as Boyer singled with two away and scored all the way from first when shortstop Carlos Rivero and left fielder Cristo Arnal collided in shallow left trying to catch a pop fly from pinch-hitter Bobby Felmy. That run loomed large when Akron mounted a rally in the bottom of the ninth, as Chisenhall singled with one down and scored on Rivero’s RBI double. Pinch-hitter Jared Goedert moved Rivero to third with a groundout, but Head flied to center to end the game.
Mitch Lively (1-0) earned the win in relief for Connecticut, while Berger (1-1) took the loss. Matt Yourkin recorded the final five outs for his second save. Chisenhall and Rivero both had three hits, but the Aeros went just 2-14 with men in scoring position.
Game four in this best-of-five series is set for 7:05 p.m. Saturday, as Akron left-hander Scott Barnes (first playoff start) will take on Defenders southpaw Ari Ronick (1-0, 0.00 ERA).